Ask Ant: The Anthology Edition

By Anthony Walker Sep 30, 2019
The ordering process for Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-views has changed: UFC 243 is only available on ESPN+ in the U.S.

Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed below are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of, its affiliates and sponsors or its parent company, Evolve Media.

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Revoltub - With One FC/Rizin/Bellator doing co-promotion fights, such as Hiroguchi vs Caldwell, is the UFC smart in staying isolated, or are they missing out on what may be the future trajectory of the sport? (That is, co-promotion)

There are definitely some good fights that are being left on the table because of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s resistance to co-promotion. Who wouldn’t want to see Douglas Lima among the Top 10 of their welterweight division? Bibiano Fernandes versus Cory Sandhagen? Yes, please. There is no shortage of great fights that could be made if the floodgates of cross-promotional cooperation opened up in the UFC.

But for whatever plans are shared between Bellator MMA and Rizin Fighting Federation, it doesn’t change the overall landscape of MMA. The UFC sets the trajectory of the sport. Even with other companies linking up, the UFC is still the top dog.

The only way that changes is if the money dictates those changes. While it was outside of MMA, the UFC did co-promote with Showtime, Mayweather Promotions and McGregor Sports & Entertainment for 2017’s crossover exhibition. The company saw the pot of gold awaiting them if they bent their rules a bit and decided to go all in. If similar pots of gold were sitting at the end of the new era WMMA champ in a superfight with his/her UFC counterpart, then expect the rules to be bent again.

Just don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen. As long as the UFC holds the overwhelming majority of top-tier talent, observers will question the legitimacy of anyone outside of their grasps. Champions, contenders and prospects alike will have a question mark above their about whether or not they were truly elite. For the near future, they are the gatekeepers to these dream fights. However fair, unfair, right or wrong as that might be, it gives the UFC the power it needs to say no to co-promotion and ample reason to deny the requests.

Buckeye4Life - Stipe Miocic is out for the rest of the year getting surgery on his eye, now what does Daniel Cormier do?

The only thing that Cormier should do with Miocic sidelined for 2019 with eye surgery is wait. Just wait for Miocic to come back for the trilogy fight. There are other bouts for Cormier that would be intriguing. But for one reason or another they don’t make nearly as much sense as holding out for a third dance with the two-time champion.

Let’s just rule out anything at 205 pounds. There’s no good reason for Cormier to take his body through the process of dropping down in weight. Plus, there aren’t any opponents that really make sense for him at light heavyweight anyway.

The trilogy fight with Jon Jones, even if it was at heavyweight, has lost a lot of luster after the events of UFC 241. Drug testing controversies aside, we’ve seen that fight twice with Jones getting the better of him both times. Aside from the rivalry, there’s little reason to pair them again.

Other heavyweights like Junior dos Santos, Francis Ngannou and Alistair Overeem have the name value and styles that could make those matchups interesting. But unless a Brinks trunk was backing up in Cormier’s driveway, that would be pointless and dangerous bouts to take without championship credentials at stake.

Miocic is the only fight that matters. Both men finished each other and have passed the belt back and forth. Each have claim to the title of the best heavyweight in UFC, or overall MMA, history. Cormier would be doing himself a great disservice by stepping in the cage against anyone else.

Frank McEdgar - Did Jeremy Stephens over exaggerate the eye poke?

No. I’ll never believe that Stephens played up the eye poke in any way, shape, form or fashion. Stephens has been one of the most reliable knuckleheads in the UFC. He has consistently squared off against the best fighters available. His resume features appearances from seven world champions. He has shown an affinity for trading punches in a kill or be killed style of fighting.

Stephens also spent a reported $30,000 on his training camp that included living at altitude in Mexico and being separated from his wife and children. The financial and personal sacrifices show a strong commitment to the task at hand. That commitment would keep him in the fight if he were able to continue.

Whether or not Yair Rodriguez can beat Stephens is one question. We can only hope that question will be answered in Boston in a few weeks. But with a proven track record of action fights against the elite at both 145 and 155, there’s no reason to believe that Stephens wanted out.

DLX - What would you say is the blueprint to defending against Khabib’s overwhelming grappling?

I can’t answer that question. There is no blueprint to defeat Khabib Nurmagomedov. The lightweight champion has fought a variety of style matchups as well. Athletic kickboxers like Edson Barboza, tough as nails well rounded vets like Dustin Poirier, precise and calculated knockout artists like McGregor and fellow suffocating grapplers like Pat Healy have all fallen victim.

Until we see Nurmagomedov not get his hand raised, there is no formula to do it. The only thing we can hope for is something different. We have to see somebody with either a different gameplan or skill set stand in front of him and do work. A chain of submissions off of the back, perhaps a complete anarchical embrace of chaos or a clinic in defensive footwork will produce better results.

Maybe Tony Ferguson, Georges St. Pierre or Justin Gaethje can crack the code. Maybe a more focused version of McGregor can be more successful with another chance. Maybe a Tristar-enhanced reboot of Kevin Lee can get it done. Maybe a more developed Gregor Gillespie is the right guy. It’s all speculation at this point.

Revoltub BMF belt, great idea....or the greatest idea?

I wouldn’t call it a great idea. But it’s an idea. Generate more interest in an already compelling fight by attaching a fake belt. That sounds like an interim belt to me. The profane name only sparks the curiosity of the uninformed.

At least it keeps this from affecting the actual title picture, for now. Don’t be surprised when the winner is discussed as the next challenger for the welterweight belt. We should be equally surprised if either Diaz or Masvidal parlay this into a shot at the 155 pound strap.

The other more likely scenario is if the BMF belt is something that is actually recognized and defended. Hard to envision McGregor not tweeting to say he wants to be the first challenger for that prize. It’s also easy to picture the fan-friendly nature of this fight and crown at stake becoming more important to casual fans than the actual title. The “Just Bleed” mayhem inspired by the gangsters of Stockton, California, and Miami can easily overshadow the comparatively by the numbers approach of an undisputed champion like Kamaru Usman.

But for all the potential places this can take us, it’s a reminder of basic fact. Mixed martial arts is an inherently crazy form of sports entertainment rooting in carnival style theatrics and pro wrestling. No matter how “legitimate” it appears to be at times, MMA will never escape this.

Europe1- During the last two UFC events, environmental factors have played a big part in the overall narrative. The much-feared Chinese jet lag, and the cardio-scorching Arabian desert. As the UFC becomes ever more globalized, should where and when a Champ/Contender fights become a bigger fighters-right issue? How much right should combatants have in picking the location -- and do you see future conflict concerning this with the UFC?

In a perfect world, fighters at the championship level would have a lot more say in the geographical location of their bouts. Looking back at Miocic defending the heavyweight belt in Cleveland and McGregor main eventing in Dublin stand out as perfect moments that were perfectly placed on the map. They made the events feel bigger and helped create mainstream popularity as a result.

It’s also hard to imagine any fighter that wasn’t Chinese or completely comfortable in a scorching hot desert being happy about fighting in Shenzhen or Abu Dhabi. Unfortunately even among highest ranked and championship level fighters, there’s very little room for leeway. The UFC’s breakneck pace of conveyor belt style frequency of events leaves very little slack for disputes about locations.

The schedule is laid out months in advance with the promotion taking a look at who is available as the date draws near to simply fill in the empty slots. It’s rare that the circumstances align themselves for appropriate places for the athletes. The only times that this happens with any consistency is when the UFC has some specific business tie in (the United Arab Emirates government sponsoring UFC 242 for example) or to shine light on a particular fighter that they’re clearly hopeful will breakthrough.

The UFC has also made it very clear that if you don’t play ball, they will move on. In the past several years we’ve seen belts stripped, an influx of interim titles and favoring those who simply ask how high when they’re told to jump. Therefore, so many fighters are working on their vertical leap.

Just like sponsorships, TV deals and drug testing protocol the fighters should have a bigger say in these issues. Even in a sport where the athletes have a lot more power to seek out their own interests, location isn’t always something that can be guaranteed. Take a look at Andy Ruiz, who was very openly unhappy about rematching Anthony Joshua in Saudia Arabia. DAZN and Eddie Hearn decided that the appeal of holding the event there outweighed the desires of the reigning heavyweight champion.

As long as the UFC still holds all of the leverage, expect them to exercise that power in any way they feel like. If they have an immediate need to fill however many open spots on the myriad of fight cards, they’ll act accordingly. If fighters have no wiggle room to act in their own interests, then so be it. Location and the related difficulties is just another thing they can’t control under the current system. Advertisement


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